Warren County limits compost centers

Warren County commissioners took steps Tuesday to block the opening of more compost centers in rural parts of the county, although they take pressure off landfills and create a product used by gardeners and farmers.

The commissioners voted unanimously to amend rural zoning regulations, limiting the centers to 230 acres outside the Village of Morrow.

“I don’t like ‘em. I don’t want to see them expanding in the county,” said Commissioner Dave Young as the board moved to amend the county rural zoning code to limit where other compost centers could open.

Over the past two years, the board has taken action after complaints about bad smells and other problems from neighbors of two commercial compost centers.

Both of the county’s commercial compost centers are licensed by Ohio EPA as Class II facilities permitted to accept yard waste, agricultural waste, animal waste and food scraps. However neither is currently accepting food waste, according to Ohio EPA.

“There is a growing demand for food composting. Environmentally, it conserves landfill space and returns organic material to the soils to grow crops and gardens, reducing the need for synthetic fertilizers. Economically, it can reduce a facility’s waste disposal costs and can save energy,” Ohio EPA spokesperson Dina Pierce said in an email.

In January, Pierce said a “work group” was developing options for facilities that “want to accept food waste but are having a difficult time managing some of the associated issues that go with large-scale food composting.”

The Warren County commissioners voted Tuesday to restrict commercial compost centers after an assistant county prosecutor, Bruce McGary, advised them the rules should survive court challenges.

McGary said the restrictions should hold up in court because compost centers become public nuisances subject to regulation like adult entertainment businesses and junkyards.

“I think it’s defendable on those grounds,” he said after citing legal precedents, some dating back to the 1950’s. Afterward, McGary said he found no cases dealing with compost centers.

Previously the centers had been permitted in industrial zones in Warren County. Tuesday’s change would limit new Class II and Class III facilities to solid waste disposal and solid waste disposal transition zones located at the former site of the Bigfoot landfill and adjoining land outside Morrow.

Yard waste compost centers will be permitted in other areas.

The regulations don’t apply within the limits of municipalities with zoning authority or on farms like Brausch’s.

The changes take effect in 30 days, barring a referendum.

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